Gem Blast: Gem Store

I have a favorite gem store, and I have spent dozens of hours perusing it’s aisles and harassing it’s employees. I’m going to take the opportunity to show you some pictures of it, and some of the treasures I’ve come across. It is sort of stuck in the 1970s, so it hasn’t exactly been updated a whole bunch since then!

I typically go back to the gem store twice a year, for buying trips, typically with Erin from willajunejewelry. Sometimes I don’t buy anything and just go to admire the eye candy.

This is the opal case. Each one of the shelves you see rotates around in the case, dangling somewhat precariously, in a rotating case. In the event that one flips over, the whole case has to be disassembled to get the items that fall to the bottom. Which is why children are not allowed to play with the buttons, and you have to be super careful with them. From this angle, you can see about 1/2 of what’s in this case.

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Some super amazing and HUGE pink tourmalines I drool over every time I go in there.

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One of the sapphire cases. this one is for blue sapphires. There is also a “fancy colored sapphire” case that has the purples, pinks, yellows, oranges, greens and Montanas, as well as a ruby case.

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Some Tanzanites I love to admire when I go in.

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Here is what a case looks like from the top. This is the pink-orange-red-brown-gold garnet case. Another case holds greens.

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Some faceted apatite I love, especially that one on the right. I know that apatite is more known for it’s neon blue colors, but I love that deep teal color. The next time I go back, I have got to get some better pictures of it.

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A gorgeous blue sapphire pear. I’d almost call this a cleft-less heart, but not quite there. The colors of these stones are not quite accurate until you pull them out of the case. Looking at them through a layer of glass and a layer of plastic plus the glare of the light on both really affects the colors.

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A view of part of the shop – the case closest to the the camera is full of tourmalines, farther away is a case of topaz, two cases of garnets, a case of emeralds and diamonds, citrine and a few more that I can’t remember. All of these cases are full of faceted gems. The cases you can see in the top right corner are actually mineral specimens. These two rows of cases house most of their faceted gems. So you can see that there are thousands and thousands of gems in this tiny store. To the left is actually the biggest part of the store, which houses more minerals, jewelry findings, jewelry settings, cabochoned material, carvings, gemstone and mineral display boxes, etc.

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The next time I go, I will have to take more/better pictures of everything!

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Gemstones: What to look for

So, buying gemstones is a tricky business. I’ve been doing it for many years, but I’m still far from being an expert at it.

Now, having said that, I do have some guidelines that I try to follow when I am after something. There are just too many variables for an easy how-to kind of guide the way diamonds have. There isn’t a lot of set pricing for various colored gemstones, so you have to do a lot of research to know if you’re getting a good deal or at least a fair deal.

Color
Color dictates everything. Red, especially pure red stones will be the most expensive stones you can buy. Pure blues, greens, yellows, and beautiful pinks won’t be far behind. Oranges are also very difficult to find, and are typically best found in garnets, but occasionally a great orange sapphire will come around.

Cut
This is something that’s different for everyone. I can overlook cut flaws for great color, some people are not as lenient as I am.

Clarity
This is something else that’s different for everyone. I don’t mind some inclusions, especially if they are cool looking (bubbles in spinels! Horsetail inclusions in demantoids!) but some people want completely clean and flaw-free. With most colored stones, this just isn’t possible. Not only that, but inclusions can help indicate the treatment level of a stone.

Size/Carat/Dimensions
Always buy by dimensions! Sapphires, for instance, are very dense and heavy, which means that 1ct will face up smaller than stones that are less dense.

Price
What is your budget for the project? How much does the gem in the size and color you desire typically cost? How savvy of a negotiator are you? You aren’t going to find a well cut, ideal blue with violet secondary in the 5ct range for $1k, unless it’s a fakey.

Treatment
Gemstones are constantly being treating in new and interesting ways that would lend to better color and clarity, not to mention making fakes. So the labs out there are having to stay on top if new treatments and innovative ways to, lets face it, scam people (ugh, the jewelry industry has such a bad rap when it comes to this topic!). The gems that are worth the most come out of the ground as you see them. There are different levels of heating, and other type of treatment – so many that I won’t got into all of them here. The GIA and AGL websites have tons of information on treatments.

Helpful hints:
1. If you’re buying a sapphire, ruby or emerald of a larger size, get a lab report.
2. Ask questions and ask for more pictures. If the seller doesn’t know the answers to the questions, and doesn’t seem to care about getting you the information you need, I’d reconsider doing business with them.
3. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of buying the gemstone variety you’re looking at. Blue topaz is almost always irradiated. Emeralds are almost always oil treated. Sapphires are almost always heated. Garnets and spinels typically aren’t treated (although lately there are rumors of heat treatment for color and clarity enhancement.) Look for comparables. I always go to reputable seller’s sites and compare compare compare. I try to find at least 3 other stones of similar size, shape, color.  If you’re after something really rare, this is harder than it sounds.
4. Ask outsiders for help! If you don’t know, ask someone else! Develop relationships with jewelers and utilize their knowledge. Ask for my help!
5. Understand that if someone acts like an expert on everything, they probably aren’t. Most jewelers are not well versed in gemstones because they aren’t as popular as diamonds.
6. Google is your friend. Seriously, I google stuff all of the time!
7. Don’t buy from the TV stations.
8. Buy what you like.
9. Manage your expectations!

Two unheated 5ctish Aquas. Blue is precision cut, green is not. Both are glorious in their own ways!

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